New photos from Iraq trouble photographer who covered the last war

The World
The Iraq War in 2004, captured by Canadian photojournalist Rita Leistner

The Iraq War in 2004, captured by Canadian photojournalist Rita Leistner.

Rita Leistner

Canadian photojournalist Rita Leistner covered the opening days of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq as an independent journalist, and in recent days she has been studying new images of war there.

In April, 2003, Leistner entered Iraq through the northern Kurdish region, and worked her way south to Baghdad with the help of Kurds, Shia and Sunni Iraqis. 

"Now I'm thinking a lot about the people that I met then," she says. "When I see pictures of [Shia] volunteers getting ready to fight, all in civilian clothes, half the time they're only wearing slip-on sandals as they head off to war."

Other pictures taken in areas under the control of the Islamic militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL), are deeply troubling to Leistner.

"A typical news photo might be captioned 'Militants of ISIL executing dozens of Iraqi security forces at an unknown location,'" Leistner says. "You know, it reminds me of the worst kind of picture of mass murder that you could conjure up."

Leistner notes that images of captured Iraqi soldiers being packed into ISIS trucks are easy to associate with ominous photos from previous wars.

"It's unimaginable the kind of horror they must be feeling about the uncertainty and unknown, and indeed we know many of them are just being carted off to be executed."

Images from Rita Leistners travels in wartime Iraq in 2003-2004 have been published in the book, "Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq."  Her latest book is called "Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan: iProbes and iPhone Photographs."

Will you support The World today?

The story you just read is available to read for free because thousands of listeners and readers like you generously support our nonprofit newsroom. Every day, the reporters and producers at The World are hard at work bringing you relevant, fact-based and human-centered news from across the globe. But we can’t do it without you: We need your support to ensure we can continue this work for another year. 

Make your gift of $100 or pledge $10 monthly, and we’ll thank you on The World’s podcast in early 2023. And every gift will get us one step closer to our goal.